Itaquera means “sleeping stone” in the Tupi-Guarani dialect, though there is nothing sleepy about this Sao Paulo neighbourhood these days. Now busily preparing to host the Opening Match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, at the Arena de Sao Paulo, it has been transformed into a thriving suburb, offering opportunities for locals and newcomers alike.

This is a good time to be an Itaquerense, so much so that even people living in surrounding areas are all proudly proclaiming their links with the up-and-coming suburb. Some can even boast they live right next door to the stadium where the greatest footballing show on Earth will get under way in two and a half years’ time, an event that will put Itaquera firmly on the global footballing map.

Take the construction workers helping to erect the Arena de Sao Paulo, for example. Among them is the 21-year-old Mauricio Rodrigues Caldeira, who hails from the northern state of Para and has just moved to the suburb, giving him the luxury of living close to his place of work, a privilege many Sao Paulo commuters no doubt envy him for.

“It’s great to live in Itaquera,” said Mauricio, who is working on his first construction project. “It’s nice and quiet here and people have been very welcoming. It’s a new start and a new life for me here.

“I hope I can carry on living here during the World Cup,” he added. “There’s a good atmosphere about Itaquera. Local trade’s on the up and people can see that things are changing here. I want to come and watch the opening game. I hope it’s Brazil versus the Netherlands so we can get our own back for 2010.”

Another proud local is Hamilton Almeida de Souza, who can hardly believe that the team closest to his heart, newly crowned Brazilian champions Corinthians, will be taking up residence at the stadium when it is complete.

“My late father had a radio and we’d meet up in the bar to listen to the Corinthians games,” he recalled. “I feel so proud to be helping to build the stadium where my club will play and where the first match of the FIFA World Cup will be staged.”

Born and bred in Itaquera, Hamilton is amazed by the pace of transformation taking place in the area he calls home.

“I never imagined seeing a stadium here,” he continued. “Local infrastructures are improving all the time and property prices are going up a lot. You can’t get a flat here for the same money as before, and houses that once cost 100m BRL [55,000 USD] are now worth 160m BRL [88,000 USD]. They’ve gone up an awful lot. And there’s going to be even more jobs, new companies, shops and restaurants. It’s going to be good for everyone.”